By F. Allan L. Angelo and Louine Hope Conserva
SENATOR Franklin Drilon urged fellow Ilonggos to work together to overcome false negative news about Iloilo City and promote the province as an ideal investment and business destination.
“In the recent past, we have heard and seen Iloilo in the spotlight, subject of unsubstantiated and false claims that Iloilo City has become bedrock of illegal drug trade. We all know that it’s not true,” said Drilon in his speech during the forum on “Diin Ka Pakadto, Iloilo?” (Where are you going, Iloilo?) at The Mansion in Iloilo City, Nov 24, 2017.
“The current political scenes are difficult to navigate. While it is true that politics affects the bottom-line, we should communicate the message that Iloilo, not only is open but is in the best shape for investments,” Drilon added.
Drilon said he will ask the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to brief the private and business sectors in Iloilo City to determine the areas that can be best develop to further enhance the city’s business standing.
He added that he pursued a development strategy in the past five years that has a two-pronged aim of reducing poverty and achieving high and sustained economic growth.
“We created an environment conducive to more investments and more jobs that will help reduce our poverty level,” said Drilon.
Drilon said the administration of former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III embarked on a massive infrastructure initiative to help boost Iloilo’s appeal to major investors, businesses and tourists alike.
After working for the establishment of the Esplanade in 2012, Drilon said he worked for its expansion, extending the 1.2-kilometer scenic route to eight kilometers on both sides. Drilon said the urban renewal project is expected to be finished by 2019.
Drilon said the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project will provide irrigation to 32,000 hectares of farmland and benefit 783,000 farmers in Iloilo’s 25 of 42 municipalities. The project will also create 800-hectare reservoir, which could be a magnet for tourism.
“This project is very critical because the decline in our agriculture sector is pulling the region’s development,” said Drilon, who is also pushing for the construction of a bridge that will link Iloilo to Guimaras.
“It is an exciting time to be an Ilonggo amid the changes that we want to do,” Drilon stressed during his speech before participants of the event organized by the Iloilo Economic and Development Foundation Inc. (ILED).
Recently, ILED, composed of Ilonggo businessmen, launched the “Proud to be Ilonggo” campaign to shore up the pride of the Ilonggos to take responsibility for their own community and help enhance the city’s image as an ideal business destination.
Drilon also downplayed insinuations that the series of rants by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte against Iloilo is intended to for him.
Duterte has labeled Iloilo as the “most shabulized city”, “bedrock of illegal drugs”, and “transshipment point of drugs” in various public speeches.
Drilon said he does not believe that the tirades against Iloilo is meant to discredit him.
“That is unfortunate if that is true because then, though no fault of the Ilonggos, they are the ones who will suffer from such move. I hope it is not true” he added.
Drilon acknowledged that the “most shabulized” tag affected the investment environment of Iloilo City and province.
“And if it affects us as an investment destination, it affects our ability to provide jobs to our people here. And therefore more poverty that we will see in our midst,” he said.
Drilon lauded the initiative of the Iloilo Economic Development Inc. (ILED) in holding a Forum on Power and Infrastructures in preparation for an investment summit in Manila March next year.
“We owe it to our youth that we try to respond to this challenge of putting back Iloilo’s image to where it should be because kaluluoy man ang aton banwa kun pabay-an,” he said.